Announcing the August 1998 issue of Communist Voice:
The fall of Suharto in Indonesia,
S. Korean workers vs. liberal regime,
in defense of Marxism materialism, and
Preobrazhensky--ideologist of state capitalism (2)

The eighteenth issue of CV, vol. 4, #3 (August 1, 1998, 54 pages of text)
contains the following articles:

Briefly on these articles

INDONESIA: Downfall of a tyrant

. The overthrow of Suharto is one of the most exciting events of recent years. Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous country, with 202 million people, and Suharto had ruled it with a grip of steel for 32 years. The question now is, can the workers sustain the mass ferment needed to completely dismantle the New Order? Can they smash up the `dual function' system, in which the army effectively controls all of society? Or will the army and Suharto's cronies be able to re-impose Suharto-ism without Suharto?

. Among popular democratic forces the most well-known is the People's Democratic Party (PRD), an activist social-democratic formation that first began organizing a few years ago. It appears to be a coalition of activist organizations that work on different fronts. They represent social forces that are genuinely angry about Suhartoism. At the same time they represent the aspirations of the petty bourgeoisie and so look to build an all-class political unity that includes the bourgeoisie. PRD does organize among the working class. At the same time PRD looks to bourgeois like Rais and Megawati Sukarnoputri for leadership. They see only a popular struggle against Suharto-ism, and don't warn the working masses in this struggle that there will be different class trends seeking to build a post-Suharto regime. They think that the only two alternatives are the old regime or a radical regime, and don't warn of the danger of liberalization via a compromise between the respectable opposition and the military. But in fact, the workers need to develop their own independent class trend and class struggle, fight to achieve the most radical democracy possible, and at the same time prepare for future class battles.

Three PRD statements

. Continue to raise the banner of the people's struggle towards a people's democratic government! (Feb. 20, 1988)

. Statement on the situation developing in the capital city and other regions (May 14, 1998)

. Down with the new order regime--with or without Suharto! (May 19, 1998)

SOUTH KOREAN workers face off against the new liberal regime

. South Korea was one of the "tigers" of the "Asian miracle". But here too the explosive growth of capitalism has brought crisis and misery in its wake. During the last several months, the workers have launched a series of strikes and protests in order to defend their conditions in the midst of the crisis. A central issue has been mass layoffs and new anti-labor laws. Worker actions have escalated somewhat in mid-July with about 100,000 workers walking off the job for two days in protest of the job cuts and 26,000 Hyundai workers launching an intense struggle against layoffs.

. The KCTU, the more militant of the two main trade union federations, has called most of the strikes and protests. But the KCTU leadership also seeks to reconcile with the new liberal regime of Kim Dae Jung, which is leading the austerity onslaught against the masses. Time and again, the KCTU leaders have canceled major actions in return for vague government promises.

. The unions that formed KCTU federation arose in the late 1980s in the midst of the militant workers' upsurge of that period. These unions were independent of the government, which backed the reactionary FKTU federation, and they waged a number of battles against employers and in defiance of government repression. The workers desire for militant action led to the KCTU's swelling to 500,000 members despite its illegality, thus representing a serious challenge to the 1.2 million member FKTU. But Kim Dae Jung has offered more legal rights to the KCTU if the KCTU will keep things within bounds.

. The current South Korean president, Kim Dae Jung, like his predecessor Kim Young Sam, was part of the bourgeois opposition to the military dictatorships that ruled South Korea for about 30 years. But he has not hesitated to use force against the workers movement. Meanwhile the present regime in Korea is not a thorough replacement of the old dictatorship, but a compromise between the bourgeois liberals and the old-guard tyrants. Trade union rights remain in imminent jeopardy, and heavy-handed persecution of the radical left remains.

Chicago Workers' Voice discards the Marxist "paradigm"

. This article criticizes Sarah's article "Some thoughts on the left and modern philosophy", which is her manifesto of disillusionment with Marxism. It points out that Sarah's retreat from Marxism is part of the crisis that has affected the left since the collapse of the phony "communist" regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and the growing transition of the remaining state-capitalist regimes to privatization. This crisis has raised in sharp relief the need for clarity on the nature of these regimes. The CWV came from a trend (the Marxist-Leninist Party) that did not share the general left opinion that the "communist" regimes were socialist or post-capitalist.The MLP opposed the regimes which claimed to be communist but were actually state-capitalist.Yet in 1993 the MLP too collapsed. This accelerated the departure of the CWVgroup from Marxism.They began to doubt one Marxist stand after another, especially the role of the independent Marxist party and the criticism of Third World petty-bourgeois nationalism. At first they continued to proclaim that Marxism-Leninism was still valid, but they held that the anti-revisionist view that such regimes as Cuba were state-capitalist was sectarian.They tried to hold to a Marxism without anti-revisionism. But in distancing themselves from anti-revisionism, they left behind any explanation for the collapse of the state-capitalist regimes.Eventually, the abandonment of anti-revisionism led Sarah to disillusionment in Marxism itself and to adopting a concept of "socialism" devoid of any definite meaning.

. The article deals in particular with Sarah's repudiation of Marxist materialism, which she carried out in the name of criticizing Plekhanov's famous book "The Monist View of History".She believes that Marxist materialism is incapable of dealing with the "nature vs.nurture" and "the complex interplay" of nature and nature. The article however reviews the materialist explanation for the evolution of society, the role of the economic base of society, and the Marxist idea of the interaction between superstructure and base. Marxism explains the interaction of different factors, but also shows the basic underlying laws concerning the evolution of society.Sarah has nothing to replace materialism with except undialectical 19th-century ideas which see nothing but the complex interaction of many different factors.

A review of Kuhn's book "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions":
Some thoughts on the left and modern philosophy

. This article is reprinted from the Chicago Workers' Voice in its entirety. It announces that the CWV is now looking for a new "paradigm", as they now see Marxism as insufficient.


. The articles from the DWV #19 (May 27, 1998), a leaflet distributed at workplaces, are reprinted. They briefly discuss a variety of struggle around the world, and there is also a brief CVupdate on the outcome of the Australian dockworkers struggle.

Does the existence of nationalized industry prove that
the capitalist law of value has been abolished?


. Almost half this issue of CV is devoted to the conclusion of a major article on Preobrazhensky.The ideas set forward in Preobrazhensky's book "The New Economics" (1926) about the transition period are still influential today. Part one of the article had pointed out that Preobrazhensky advocated that, provided the former capitalist owners were dispossessed, the state sector of a country was inherently socialist. He could not see that a new bourgeoisie could arise on the basis of its power over the state sector. He thought that the earth-shaking Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 had settled the issue of the nature of the Soviet state and economy for good.He didn't see that, arising on the basis of the Soviet state sector, a new bourgeoisie could gradually develop and control the economy--not with Western-style private ownership, but with the power of interlinking state, party and economic bureaucracies. The state-owned enterprises and ministers would be run on the basis of the scramble for individual enrichment and privileges by the Soviet executives. To see this danger would have required contrasting the consolidation of this new bourgeoisie to Lenin's views about the transition to socialism and about what he wanted NEP to be. Lenin had pointed to the development of certain contradictions between the state sector and the working class under NEP, and to other social issues under NEP, and these ideas should have been further developed in order to understand the class struggle under NEP.

. Preobrazhensky, however, held that all that was needed was the vigorous growth of industrialization and the state sector. He argued that various categories of capitalist economics, such as profit, interest, rent, and commodity production, didn't really exist in the state sector. He was faced with the problem that these categories clearly did exist under NEP. So, on the plea that the role of economic theory was to penetrate below appearances, he argued that the continued existence of profit, etc. were really just "fictitious" surface appearances, a mere "imitation" of capitalist forms. These "fictitious" appearances would supposedly quickly and automatically vanish as Soviet planners gained more experience in running the economy and as the state sector grew. He built up a picture of the Soviet economy based not on what was actually happening to it, but on his hopes, wishes and dreams about what it might yet turn out to be.

. Part One of this article, in the last issue of CV, analyzed in detail his arguments about a number of economic categories. These arguments are similar to those of many Trotskyists and Stalinists to this day. After the beginning of the first Five Year Plan, Preobrazhensky and many other leading Soviet Trotskyists sought a reconciliation with Stalin as they held that Stalin was carrying out their plans. Despite the fact that Preobrazhensky and a number of other Trotskyists were eventually murdered by the Stalinists, their economic views are very close.

. Part Two (containing sections III through VII of the article) deals with additional theoretical topics, including some views on the law of value and planning that are controversial among dedicated anti-revisionists.

. Section III examines the stand of the Trotskyist opposition to the state sector. Through looking at Trotsky's statements and those of other eminent Trotskyists, it shows that Trotsky too didn't recognize the growth of a new bourgeoisie based on the state sector. Oh yes, Trotsky complained about bureaucracy. He blamed it on almost everything--the degeneration of old Bolsheviks, the admission of new party members, traditional conservatism, etc. etc.--everything except the internal evolution in the state sector. The article goes on to point out the basic agreement between Preobrazhensky, Trotsky, Mandel and Stalin on the nature of the state sector, and the difficulty Mandel has in finding disagreements with Stalin's "Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR".

. Section IV examines Preobrazhensky's arguments that the law of value doesn't exist in the state sector. It shows that Preobrazhensky relies on the view that the law of value is already cut down or partially abolished in monopoly capitalism itself.

. Section V examines Preobrazhensky's view that the fullest working of the law of value only takes place under conditions of perfect, neo-liberal free competition. It argues that the continued evolution of the law of value since the period of 19th century free competition amounts to a further development of the law of value, not its gradual fading away.

. Section VI discusses the issues of "perfect planning". The Soviet Union under NEP faced a number of obstacles to central economic planning. This included the difficulty in developing planning techniques; the state sector having to compete with the private sector including petty-production in the countryside; the workers being increasingly sidelined by the development of bureaucracy; etc. Preobrazhensky only saw the problems of the growth of the state sector and the perfection of the planning techniques used by ministries and executives. His view that the state sector was automatically socialist blinded him to the significance of the growing passivity of the workers. He might regret the bureaucracy imposed on the workers, but he didn't see its economic significance. He didn't see that the workers were essential not just as a factor of production, but as active planner and controllers of the economy.

. There is no doubt that developing planning techniques was a serious problem for the Soviet regime. But by and large this problem was surmounted. It was the class issues that festered in the Soviet Union, gradually converting the party and the executives into a new ruling class based on the state sector. These problems were not surmounted, and they eventually killed the revolution.As far as planning techniques, it is true that there was constant discussion in the Soviet Union, right up to its dissolution, about how to reform the planning system. Every few years another system of planning, another way of estimating plan fulfillment, another way of calculating bonuses for the executives was introduced. But the Soviet ruling class tried to solve its problems with one planning technique after another because it naturally wouldn't concede that the class relations in the Soviet Union were the problem. It looked instead to technical and administrative improvements. So there was the search for the Holy Grail of technically-perfect planning.

. This section criticizes the idea that the law of value is overcome by perfect foresight, rather than by the overall social control of production. It also criticizes a particular idea for perfect planning, which involves replacing financial calculation by calculation in labor-hours. It claims that the lack of value and financial calculations in a fully socialist society means the end of measuring products on a single numerical scale, and it points out that measurement in labor-hours is in fact the underlying content of the capitalist law of value.

. Section VII criticizes Preobrazhensky's attempt to define the transitional period between capitalism and socialism as the period of "primitive socialist accumulation". This term, even if stripped of the analogy to the savage "primitive capitalist accumulation", reduces the entire social transformation of the transition period to simply the growth of state industry, and it reduces the growth of state industry to simply more funds and more experienced planners. It emphasizes those features which are common to state capitalism and the transition to socialism. This was one of the ways that Preobrazhensky ended up as an ideologist of state capitalism, who painted commodity production in communist colors. Along the way, this section also takes another look at the literature of the Trotskyist Opposition, showing their lack of concern in the 20s with the failure of NEP to bring gradual collectivization.

CORRESPONDENCE and correction

. The correspondence column contains a letter from an enthusiastic reader and an article contributed by the "Oregon Revolutionaries Society". The correction is to the correspondence column in the last issue of CV. There was an error in the "Reply on Cuba" on page 55. The last sentence of the third paragraph should have read: "Likewise, only `theorists' who ignore what's actually been happening can hold [not, can "deny"] that capitalism can no longer grow."

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